A panel of wildlife officials says it's time to lift Endangered Species protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted unanimously this week in favor of ending the federal protections.
The committee's recommendation will now be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Environmental groups worried about climate change say it's too early to take the bears off the threatened list.
U-S Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, Chris Servheen, says there are over 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem population, increasing at about 1-percent to 1-and-a-half percent annually. He says there are about 1,000 grizzlies in the Glacier/Bob Marshall complex, which he says is growing by about 3-percent annually. Servheen says there are about 45 grizzlies in northwest Montana's Cabinet/Yaak region. That population is holding steady - not growing or declining much.
In this evening's feature interview with Edward O'Brien, Servheen discusses the reasoning behind this week's decision on the Yellowstone population.
Declining White Bark Pine stands in the ecosystem played a significant role. Those stands have been affected by Blister Rust and the Mountain Pine Beetle.